Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Absudity Of The 'UK Overcrowdedness' Myth

It is ridiculous to claim that the UK is overcrowded, as many people are eager to claim in this current political climate. Crowded cities are popular because people like to live in them.  They like crowds because crowds have more people, and more people bring greater benefits to society.

Consider it from the perspective of what your being born brings to the world by way of benefits to others. Apart from all the obvious benefits you bring to your closest family, consider all the other good things you bring to the people in your city; you contribute skills, you work and earn money, you are a friend to many, a caring neighbour, a parent, a lover, you think up new ideas, you bring a unique perspective based on a unique experience of the world, you bring help and support in people's tough situations, and conversation, and with that comes anecdotes, wisdom, retrospective prudence, humour, and many more things. The reason why your existence is a blessing to others in your city is the same reason why increased population has made the world more prosperous; you have brought much more into the world than you have drained from it*.  

Regarding overcrowdedness, the upshot is, rural areas are quieter because fewer people like to live in them - and house prices are very expensive in Central London and Manhattan because more people want to live there.  Its simple logic - the reason London has 8.6 million people and rural towns have only a few thousand is because more people prefer to live in London than they do rural towns. The reason being, not only is there is a greater abundance of the aforementioned benefits in more populous areas, there are also better career prospects, higher salaries, better nightlife, greater choices of restaurants, a richer choice of entertainment, more tourist attractions, better public transport, greater diversity of people – the list goes on. 

So what I wonder is this: of all its citizens, who is statistically more likely to complain that the UK is over-crowded – people in crowded places or people in non-crowded places having a perception that other busier places are overcrowded? If it’s the former then they would do well to read this Blog post because it should show them that they don’t know how good they have it. If it’s the latter then I don’t get their complaint because life is not overcrowded for them in their rural provenances.

In terms of probability, the highest number of complainers will most likely come from a highly populated area, which probably explains why to them the UK feels overcrowded. Most people who pontificate on overcrowding are likely to be pontificating from a vantage point of high population density. The people with the highest probability of feeling an intense population density are those who live in the densely populated areas. For example, if city x has 7 million people and a village y has 1000 people, and only x and y exist, there is only a 1 in 7000 probability that you don't live in city x.

Let's get one thing straight, though - the UK is not overcrowded. The mistake people are making is that they are trying to average population density of people instead of averaging over square miles. You can't get a proper picture of the UK's people to area ratio by counting how densely populated a populated area is - the only way is to assess how densely populated the average square mile would be when considering each square mile as a weighted average of total population and total area. A tube station in the rush hour can be overcrowded; so can a concert venue without proper door control - but take a trip around the UK by plane and look down, and for the most part you won't see crowds of people, you'll see fields and woodlands.

The rate of urban areas in relation to square miles is vanishingly small - there is potential for literally millions more people living in the UK. Of course, just like all sensible immigration policies, a nation must ensure it has the schools, hospitals, roads, etc to support more people, but given the myriad qualities and benefits one distils from living in places like London, that ought to be something that's greatly encouraged.

It certainly is the case that in some areas of the UK the infrastructure hasn't quite kept up with population demand, but once you accept the general maxim that more people means more cultural and social benefits, it's easy to see that inadequate facilities does not mean the nation is overcrowded, it simply means that the UK infrastructure has not progressed conterminously to facilitate the social and cultural benefits that come with an increased diversity of people.

* For a much more comprehensive analysis of this, see my blog post Why The World Is Not Overpopulated. 

** Photo courtesy of goldmansachs